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BACKGROUND: In sub-Saharan Africa, common mental disorders (CMDs) like depression and anxiety are under-investigated amongst young people living with HIV (YLWH). To address the gap, in Kenya we: a) determined the prevalence of CMDs among YLWH compared to their uninfected peers; b) investigated HIV status as an independent predictor of CMDs in young people; c) investigated CMDs risk and protective indicators with more focus on YLWH. METHODS: Between November 2018 and September 2019, 819 young people aged 18-24 years (407 HIV-infected) were recruited from two Counties on the Kenyan coast. Locally adapted pre-existing mental health measures, Patient Health Questionnaire (9-item) and Generalized Anxiety Disorder scale (7-item), were administered among other questionnaires via audio computer-assisted self-interview. Logistic regression was used to determine the correlates of CMDs. RESULTS: Prevalence of CMDs was significantly elevated among YLWH compared to their uninfected peers i.e. 29% vs. 12%; p < 0.001 for depressive symptoms, 19% vs. 8%; p < 0.001 for anxiety symptoms, and 16% vs. 5%; p < 0.001 for comorbid depressive and anxiety symptoms. HIV status independently predicted depressive symptoms and its co-occurrence with anxiety symptoms. Among YLWH, negative life events, higher perceived HIV-related stigma and low adherence to antiretroviral therapy were the risk indicators for elevated CMDs. Among HIV-uninfected youths, death of both parents was a risk indicator for elevated depressive symptoms. Protective indicators against CMDs among youths with and without HIV included higher social support and health-related quality of life. CONCLUSION: At the Kenyan coast, YLWH have significantly higher burden of CMDs compared to their uninfected peers. Being HIV-positive as a youth in this setting is predictive of more depressive symptoms and its comorbidity with anxiety symptoms. YLWH at high risk of CMDs in coastal Kenya can benefit from early detection, referral and treatment if routine screening for CMDs is integrated in their care package. The mental wellbeing of bereaving HIV-unaffected youths could be improved through continued support to help them come to terms with their loss. At the community level, programmes strengthening the social capital or improving the overall quality of life of youths with or without HIV may be beneficial to their mental health.

Original publication




Journal article


BMC Psychiatry

Publication Date





Common mental disorders, Correlates, HIV infections, Prevalence, Young people